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Consent For Treatment

State and federal law prescribe whether a minor’s parent or guardian must consent to the minor receiving specific services or whether the minor can consent to him or herself.


PRIMARY MEDICAL AND DENTAL CARE – In general, the parent or guardian must consent to a minor receiving primary medical or dental services. In an emergency, however, a medical or dental provider may treat a minor who has a condition or injury which is considered an emergency, but whose parent or guardian is unavailable to give consent. In this case the provider should document their effort and the circumstances carefully. 


MENTAL HEALTH – In general minors cannot consent to their own outpatient mental health treatment; however, those age 12 and over can consent to limited mental health services if both of the following are true:

  • The minor, in the opinion of the mental health professional, is mature enough to participate intelligently in services; AND

  • The minor would present a danger of serious physical or mental harm to self or to others without the mental health treatment or counseling OR is the alleged victim of incest or child abuse. 


SUBSTANCE ABUSE TREATMENT – A minor who is 12 or older may consent to medical care and counseling relating to the diagnosis and treatment of a drug or alcohol related problem. However there are many subtleties embedded within the various laws and ethics governing substance abuse treatment; health centers planning to provide substance abuse treatment should become familiar with the details. 


EMANCIPATED MINORS – In California, emancipated minors may consent to medical, dental or psychiatric care without parental consent. Minors are considered emancipated if they are currently or have been married or are participating in the armed services. The court may additionally declare a minor emancipated if it finds that the minor: 

  • is at least 14 years old; 

  • willingly lives separate and apart from parent or guardian with the consent or acquiescence of the parent or guardian; 

  • is managing his or her own financial affairs; 

  • does not derive his or her income from criminal activity; AND 

  • emancipation would not be contrary to his or her best interests. 

In addition, a minor may consent to his/her own medical or dental care if he or she:  

  • is at least 15 years old; 

  • is living separate and apart from the minor’s parents or guardian, with or without the consent of a parent or guardian and regardless of the duration of the separate residence; AND 

  • is managing his/her own financial affairs, regardless of income source.